Researchers have identified a new species of crocodile in Africa. The discovery gives researchers more information about the development of…
Researchers have identified a new species of crocodile in Africa. The discovery gives researchers more information about the development of crocodiles and how they can protect the new species from being extinct.
The new Central African slender crotch crocodile is a freshwater species and has a long and narrow nose as its name. From the beginning it was incorrectly classified as belonging to another slim-snouted crocodile that is also medium sized and lives in freshwater habitats. It was not until scientists carefully looked at the DNA and physical characteristics of the crocodiles in six African countries as it became apparent that they could be two separate species ̵
1; a unique to West Africa and a unique to Central Africa. The crocodile in Central Africa is the first new live crocodile species discovered in almost 85 years.
“Recognizing the snugly crooked crocodile that actually consists of two different species is the cause of great conservation,” said leading author Matthew Shirley, a crocodile expert at the Florida International University Tropical Conservation Institute. “We estimate that only 10 percent of narrow snooped crocodiles occur in West Africa, which effectively reduces the population by 90 percent. This makes the West African slug-root crocodile one of the world’s most critically threatened crocodiles.”
The results illustrate how little we know about African crocodiles or how these animals are distributed geographically in western and central Africa.  African slender-snouted crocodiles are almost identical in appearance. However, after closer inspection, researchers realized that Western and Central African populations of crocodiles do not share the same genetic or physical characteristics. Central African slender crocodiles have a slightly different skull shape and softer scales than their western counterparts. The evidence further supports the presence of two species.
The discovery has major consequences for decision makers and conservationists because the success of conservation efforts largely depends on the exact taxonomy of a particular species. West African slender snoop crocodile is among the few critically threatened crocodiles in the world and their number is still falling. By recognizing that there are two distinct species, biologists and conservation agencies can exploit the resources and ensure that the species whose numbers are lower than thought is future.
Matthew Shirley says. “We hope this better understanding of slim-sniffed crocodile development and taxonomy makes the much-needed attention to the situation of this species, which has long been recognized as the least-known crocodile in the world.”